Low prices on good stuff?

With the way the economy is today many people are finding ways to save money on everything they do. This isn’t something new though, people have been thrifty for generations. When I was young, a new concept in supermarkets came to my town. It was called a warehouse store.

The store didn’t spend money on fancy displays or expensive TV advertising. In fact, they just opened the shipping boxes and put them on a shelf. The shelves were marked with a price instead of tagging each product and customers brought their own grocery bags. Because the store expenses were so low, so were the prices. It didn’t take long for others to jump on the bandwagon to try and profit from this good idea.

Eventually, the warehouse stores wiped out much of the other supermarkets. Many people simply didn’t want to spend more than was necessary on food and household goods. The warehouse stores were very profitable. However, all good things must come to an end and low prices at the warehouse stores were no exception. Television ads started showing up during prime time programming and fancy store displays became commonplace. Some stores even gave away “free samples” of products. Somebody pays for all that. In fact, you do.

We know these stores as Cub Foods, Rainbow Foods, and others. Target and Walmart have joined in too. Even Walgreens sells food now. Food at a drug store? I wonder if I can get bananas at True Value Hardware yet. (I’ve had “free” popcorn there.)

I may have been brainwashed into thinking that Rainbow Foods has “low, low prices on the good stuff” as their jingle states but I know better now. Recently I compared prices at three stores. I chose Walmart, Rainbow, and Cub. These stores are all in my neighborhood so my neighbors and I have a choice of where to spend our hard-earned grocery money. I compared prices on over thirty products that I buy regularly. I found that I wasn’t getting the best prices from the store that I thought was saving me money. In fact, I felt as though I was being deceived into believing that they had any good prices at all.

Another way that stores can deceive you is through packaging. For example, Crystal sugar comes in both four pound and five-pound bags. Two stores may have different prices for Crystal sugar but one of them is selling the smaller bag at a lower price. You may not notice the difference in weight so you feel like your saving money. Different types of packaging can make a difference as well. Applesauce, tomato juice and other foods are often available in both plastic and glass containers. Plastic containers cost more so you pay more for items in plastic bottles or jars. I found that Mott’s applesauce in a glass jar was priced the same as a store brand in a plastic jar. I also noticed that the store brand contained fewer ounces of applesauce. If you compare the price of a 46 ounce can of V-8 vegetable juice and a 46-ounce plastic bottle of V-8 you’ll see that the bottle costs more.

From milk to cat food, lemonade to olive oil, peanut butter to bread, the lowest prices weren’t at one of the original warehouse stores at all. The best prices were at Walmart. Surprised? I was too. I can get bath towels, a car battery, toilet cleaner, garden seeds, pet supplies, clothes, a television and pick up my groceries for the week, all at the same store. I’ll get a better price on food at Walmart than at Cub or Rainbow and I won’t need to go to several stores to get everything else I need. My local Walmart doesn’t have fresh produce so I need to get that elsewhere but I’ve found that my neighborhood mom-and-pop-store has better prices on produce than Rainbow or Cub. “Low, low prices on the good stuff” aren’t at Rainbow Foods anymore. They’re at Walmart. “Save money. Live better.” I wonder if Rainbow Food’s “Chairman Bob” approves of that.

Update: My local Walmart now has produce. No more visits to another store. As for Cub and Rainbow, This little poem should sum it up:

Take a bucket of water,
Put your hand in up to the wrist.
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

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